Entertainment is a good thing.

This should be clear to all, but it has fallen to me, the eternal contrarian, to actually say it out loud.

Entertainment, pure entertainment, is a good thing.

Books and films and others don’t need to be edifying and exemplifying and virtue-promoting to be good for you. It is enough that they are entertaining.

Surely you’ve heard the old story that “I was so depressed until I picked up your book” — and then she read and wasn’t anymore. This happens with hokey self-help books, but it is (I’d guess) much more common with novels — pure filthy steenking entertainment — because they are a less bitter pill, and in pretending less, achieve more.

Human beings are complex, and from time to time we need a little hole to put our heads in to forget our hurts and to distance ourselves from the troubles that beset us. Sure, a touch of House or King won’t solve most of your problems (unless a lack of hypochondria or paranoia is the problem), but they will carry you away for a little while, calm you, and when they set you down you might see your problems in a different light — and sometimes that’s all that is needed, and the only thing that helps. Pure entertainment is less pretentious than reading the Bible, and more effective than the crude meditation of reading the New York Phone Directory. They’re no panacea (nothing is): a touch of Scalzi or Rothfuss won’t fix your car, but they can get you out of a depression or a help you through a really shitty week.

And to repeat, that effect doesn’t need some epic moral or high and mighty exemplar of heroic endurance and unique bravery, and might actually be ruined by shoehorned-in allegories and happy endings hobbling the tale, making it the same old, same old: all that is necessary is that the story grips us and carries us and dances us into horizons new and places unseen. This is a sedative more than it is escapism: and a sedative in the best sense of the word — that which tends to calm and moderate nervousness and excitement. (Often this moderation comes by causing new nervousness and excitement centered on the events of the story — where they are safely contained.)

Entertainment is a good thing. Okay?

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